California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc

T. S. Piggliot (1990-1995)

by Chris Christensen

T.S.Piggliot was born in Martinez, California at 12:15 AM January 1, 1990.  He was the runt of the litter to his mother Matilda.  Matilda had been purchased pregnant from a breeder in Iowa by a couple who were going to make a “killing” in the pet potbellied pig boom of the nineties.  We paid $1,000 for T.S. and had him home in time to watch the Super Bowl.  We now know that he should have remained with his mom through February, but who knew anything then.  We sure didn’t and neither did these breeders.  Of course by 1992 the boom had become a bomb.  The breeder’s property was being foreclosed on and the husband was in jail.

Our late T.S.Piggliot had almost all of the negative traits that we have ever heard of about potbellied pigs.  He was a negative pig ownership test vehicle who drove himself deep into our hearts.  He took two years to potty train, had bad conformation with weak spindly legs.  He was extremely aggressive, and I've never missed anything or anyone as much as I miss him.

What made T.S. so special?  I hear people speak of dogs and cats with as much fervor as I hear people speak of their potbelly pigs, but for me there seems to be a different edge, an intangible feeling when people are really connected with their pig.  When we lost T.S. we received letters and calls from all over the United States, from acquaintances and from total strangers who were totally grieved at our loss.  In the past I would have thought these people should "get a life", after all, "He was just a pet."  But today I question everything I ever thought about not only our relationship to our pets, but also our relationship to all the other creatures with which we share this earth.

Anyway, what was it like to live with T.S.?  He peed all over the house.  He got so big we had to get a kiddy pool for a potty box.  He weighed one hundred pounds more than the 35 lbs the breeder promised.  He ate our business license off the coffee table, tore up our books and magazines and took a bite out of our new end table. He lost all his hair (breeder said they didn’t shed), had mange and gave us mange.  He bit my wife, bit me and bit our friends.  Vet said we had to go to U.C.Davis (a veterinary teaching facility an hour or more away from where we live) every time we called with a problem.  We had to buy a huge portable airline animal crate to transport him, had to rent a van to hold the crate and had to call our friends to help us load the crate into the van.  T.S. bit our friends.  They no longer returned our calls.  He couldn't be free fed, so we couldn't go away for the weekends anymore.  His tusks and hooves had to be trimmed, and he needed shots.  He screamed so loud the neighbors thought I beat my wife.  He was stubborn and demanding.

What were his good points?  Didn't we just cover those?  Now not all pigs exhibit the above behaviors.  Our present four rescue pigs, Riff, Chuckles, George, and Standlee never even consider pottying in the house or trying to bite a human (other pigs, maybe).

We compared T.S. to a small child more often than we compared him to any type of pet.  Pigs are fourth in line of intelligence, way ahead of any other common domestic animal.   Fortunately T.S. didn’t have hands to grip and manipulate objects or he might have become even more of a challenge.  He used to watch me work, as though waiting patiently until he would develop fingers like dad so he could use those tools.  Our neighbor called him “the inspector” because of the interest he took in tools and building.

Love from a potbelly pig is not easily or quickly given.  There is a certain accomplishment and definitely a uniqueness to having a pig curled up against you for an evening in front of the fire.  Unlike a dog that will curl up to anyone from their first day in the house or a cat who changes its mind hourly on precisely where or with whom it will lie.  T.S. developed trust slowly and forgave violations of this trust even more slowly.  T.S. appreciated food, comfort and security.  Senselessly chasing a stick or unraveling a ball of yarn was not of much interest to T.S. unless there was a food reward involved.  Work consisted of what was necessary to procure food, comfort and security.  All else was unnecessary.  A rather civilized outlook.

In 1995 T.S. developed a weakness in his legs.  The calcium in his bones had been depleted by a diet heavy in oat bran that had been suggested to keep him feeling full and therefore, reduce his aggression.  As I said earlier we didn’t know much then.  With the help of Dr. George of U.C.Davis, we worked out a diet to build up his calcium and ease his discomfort.  I built an 8’ x 8’ pen in our family room and filled it deep with hay.  T.S. could move around and lay in this with less pressure on his legs.  After five months of this he seemed to be better and was able to no longer need the hay.  We dreaded the coming of winter and how the cold might affect his joints.  In July our local vet came to our house to give T.S. his yearly shots and trim his hooves and tusks.  The tusks were trimmed with bolt cutters while the pig was awake and screaming.  This was how our vet and many other vets did it at that time.  Anyway part of the tusk was inhaled into his lung where it became infected.  Dr. George of U.C.Davis tried to remove the tusk from the lung, but could not.  He suggested a possible operation to remove part of the lung, but it was completely experimental and risky with a long recovery period.  It seemed T.S. had suffered enough in his short life so on July 29, 1995, we let him pass to the land of bottomless food bowls and warm mud baths.

As my wife has stated on many occasions, "I will always have a pig in my house."  Assuming that she's not referring to me (but not really insulted if she is), I must agree that life without one of these fellows would certainly be less full, less joyful and less loving.  T.S. was truly none of the things that the breeder promised us he would be.  He was so much more.

For more about T.S.Piggliot see "Zen and the Art of Being Owned By a Potbellied Pig"

Pigs aren't our whole lives...They make our lives whole.